In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Technique: Bubbles for a New Year

Written by Donna Marie Desfor, Culinary Consultant and Chef | Dec 28, 2011 8:53 PM

So, maybe you’re like me, thinking today is Wednesday.  It seems with a Holiday weekend, I have my days a bit jumbled.  So, instead of a Food Wednesdays column, where I probably would have waxed poetic on the virtues of Champagne and how to select an appropriate and affordable sparkling wine in its stead, I’ll just post a few cocktail recipes that are imaginative, fun, and easy.  You’ll get to enjoy your bubbles all night long, instead of saving the “pop” of the cork for midnight. 

When it comes to champagne, I’d venture to say that we all know of it.  Even the non-drinkers know of it.  And, we reach for it when there’s a reason to celebrate.  For this New Year, you need to know little more than Saint -Hilaire Limoux Blanc de blancs or mid-priced Prosecco.  Armed with those two pieces of information, you’ll find yourself pleasantly pleased when the first cork is popped.  Neither one is a “champagne” per se (the term “champagne” reserved only for the wines that hail from that region), but they are sparkling wines, they are quite good, and they are affordable.  Oh, and they are available in just about all of our state-controlled wine and spirit shoppes.  Of course, if you’re interested in a little more of the lore behind those bubbles, read Bubble by Bubble, in last week’s Wall Street Journal.

After that you simply need decide between brut or extra dry.  If you’re choosing your bubbles for one of the recipes below, remember that there’s already a bit of sweet to the recipe.  If you want a dry, elegant cocktail we recommend using a “Brut” champagne or sparkling wine.  If you intend to use this recipe as an aperitif or as an after-dinner toast, a sweeter, “Extra-Dry” champagne may be more to your liking.

For those of you who prefer your bubbles to be of the non-alcoholic type, you can still use these recipes.  Sparkling cider, sparkling water or even club soda will be a suitable substitute.  You can even use ginger ale in place of the sparkling wine.

Recipe:  Ginger Spiced Champagne Cocktail
This champagne cocktail is elegant and timeless, with a generous hint of spice. The spiced syrup can be made well in advance; flavors will intensify as it rests.

Makes enough syrup for one bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine

Ingredients
4 cups white grape juice (substitute apple juice)
1 teaspoon crystalized ginger, coarse chopped
8 cloves, crushed
4 allspice berries, crushed
2 tablespoons orange zest
Half vanilla bean
1 bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine

Preparation
Make a spice sachet.  Place all of the spices, zest and vanilla bean into a square made from a double thickness of cheesecloth.  Tie it off with kitchen twine.  (Chef’s note:  if you prefer you can skip making the sachet.  Simply toss the spices into the juice when directed.  Strain through a cheesecloth lined sieve, cool and then proceed.)

Prepare the spiced syrup.  Place the white grape juice into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Add the cheesecloth, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced by about half, 20-30 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes.  Remove the sachet and carefully squeeze all the juice from the bundle.  Pour the syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a clean glass container.  Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  The syrup will become thicker as it cools. 

Make the cocktail.  Add 1 part spiced juice to 2 parts well chilled Champagne or sparkling wine. Serve immediately in a martini glass.

Recipe: St. Germain Cocktail
Serves 12 

I serve this cocktail regularly at The Baudelaire Onion Tasting Room.  It always "wows" my guest.

Ingredients
1 part St-Germain (elderflower liqueur)
1/2 part Bombay Sapphire Gin
4 parts Club Soda
Sparkling Wine, to top off

Preparation
Mix the liqueur and gin in a tall shot glass. Swirl to combine. Pour the Club Soda into chilled champagne flute then pour the St-Germain mixture into the flute. Top off with Sparkling Wine; garnish with a fresh lavender sprig or fresh fruit. Serve immediately.

Non-sparkling cocktail: in a tall glass filled with ice combine the St. Germain, gin, and top off with club soda. Stir. Serve.

Recipe:  Sparkling Jasmine Tea and Limoncello Cocktail
Serves 6 

While visiting a friend in Chicago, we tasted this luscious cocktail at Charlie Trotter’s restaurant.  It is marvelous, if a bit fussy in the preparation.

Ingredients
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup hot water
3 parts freshly brewed jasmine tea, cooled
1 part Bombay Sapphire Gin
1 part Limoncello
1 part chilled club soda
Sparkling Wine to top off (or substitute sparkling wine for club soda)
6 lemon slices for garnish

Preparation
Stir honey and 1/2 cup hot water in small bowl until honey dissolves. Cool completely. Combine honey water, jasmine tea, gin, limoncello in large pitcher. Add club soda and stir to blend.

Pour into champagne flutes; top off with sparkling wine.  Garnish each with lemon slice.

Copyright © 2011 by Donna Marie Desfor and There’s a Chef in My Kitchen, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2011 by WITF, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Published in Donna Marie Desfor

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